Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/96

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called terra firma, the traveller is appalled by the sterility of the surrounding plain; at the same time that the signs of a past system of careful drainage, and the ruins of huts and haciendas, show you that this curse of barrenness has not been always the dowry of the soil. In truth, owing to causes which it is difficult to explain, some of the finest estates in the immediate vicinity of the capital have become absolutely desert, from the rapid spread of saline offlorescence formed upon the surface, which is more or less a main feature of all these great elevated plains.

About six miles from the city, we traversed the dry bed of the Chorubusco, passing along a ridge raised several feet above the general surface of the country, and formed by the debris brought down by the river from the mountains in the rainy season.

We now approached the noble estate and hacienda of San Antonio, covering a large tract of fertile country in advance, and admirably cultivated and governed by its noble proprietor, to whose family we had the advantage of being known; and I shall take occasion at once to make use of the knowledge gained by subsequent visits here, to allude to a few points of interest connected with agriculture in this part of Mexico.

The Hacienda San Antonio is situated at the distance of eight miles from the city, in the centre of a body of land of great fertility, extending from the line of the road far into the plain to the east and south, while exactly opposite a small picturesque church, surrounded by trees, marks the limit of a vast field of hard black lava of revolting sterility, deforming the country in the vicinity of San Augustin, and along the base of the neighbouring mountain of the Ajusco. It is known by the name of the Pedrigal.

The road and a rivulet in front of the hacienda are shaded by fine silver poplars, and other well-known trees; in addition to the schinus or Peruvian pepper tree, of which the bright green foliage, and pendant clusters of red berries, form such a graceful ornament of the upper regions of the country.